"Plutopia" by Kate Brown was an interesting look at two towns built in the 1940s to produce plutonium for making bombs--one was in Richland, Washington, the other in Ozersk, Russia. The accidents, spills, design flaws, cover-ups, health issues, etc., were all devastating and residents are still suffering from health issues to this day and fighting for answers. No one seems to want to take responsibility for the messes they created.
"There Was an Old Woman" by Hallie Ephron was a quick read, a pretty good suspense story that I actually had figured out pretty quickly, a real rarity for me. When Evie's mom falls and is taken to the hospital, Evie goes out to Higg's Point to take care of her house and is stunned when she sees the filthy condition it's in. Evie figures her mother's drinking must have escalated to a dangerous point. She goes to the hospital to visit her and the doctor tells her her mom has suffered from an acetaminophen overdose and she's dying. Evie talks to her mother's elderly but still sharp next door neighbor, Mina Yetner, and more and more things aren't adding up. Why are the houses on their street slowly being emptied of residents dying off and then the houses bulldozed over? Where was all the money coming from that Evie found in her mother's house? Evie searches for answers, hoping she's in time to save Mina Yetner from the same sad fate her mother suffered.
"Babycakes" by Donna Kauffman is another of her fluffy Cupcake Club romances. This one was really sweet (haha). Kit moves to small Sugarberry Island (which must have the highest per capita of sweet-tooths in the world) to help Lani run her mail order cupcake business after her own family pie business is stolen out from under her by her greedy brother in law and oblivious sister. Also new to the island is Morgan Westlake, who is now guardian to his dead brother's five year old. Kit is initially wary of Morgan, since the Westlake family helped her brother in law steal her business, but she soon realizes Morgan is nothing like the rest of his scumball family and their romance goes full swing.
"The Art of Hearing Heartbeats" by Jan-Philipp Sendker was very touching. Julia's successful father disappears one day, and four years later she travels to the remote mountain village in Burma where he grew up to see if she could discover what really happened to him. She meets U Ba, who has a haunting tale of love and loss to share with her. It was very sweet.
"Suburgatory" by Linda Erin Keenan was a collection of snarky tales of a woman who thinks she's better than the suburban moms she's surrounded by. Some were funny but some were just mean.
"Boy Toy" by Barry Lyga was magnificent. Josh is almost ready to graduate from high school with perfect grades and an amazing baseball career behind him. He also has a terrible secret, which everyone knows: when he was in seventh grade he was molested by his history teacher. She's about to get out of prison, and Josh is still struggling to understand what happened to him five years earlier. It was incredibly powerful. Such a great writer!
"Read My Lips" by Sally Kellerman was a quick read, a short autobiography about her life. I haven't seen too many of her movies, but the ones I have seen I liked her in. She was funny and honest, and has never lived more than 25 miles from where she was born, which is pretty incredible.
I wasn't too impressed with "Beautiful Creatures" by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. It's a rather melodramatic Gothic YA romance set in the deep South. Ethan is smitten with the new girl in town, Lena, who is living with her uncle Mason, the town recluse. Lena is a Castor--a witch, basically. In Lena's family, everyone is Claimed at the age of 16 by either the Dark or the Light. Lena has always been told she's had no choice in which side claims her, and she's terrified of going Dark like her cousin Ridley did the year before. The kids at school are giving her a hard time because they realize she's different, even though they don't realize just how different. When her sixteenth birthday comes, Lena discovers she does actually have some sort of choice in the matter: if she chooses Light, her beloved uncle Mason will die and she won't be able to have a future with Ethan, because Castors and Mortals can't be together. If she chooses Dark, however, she can be with Ethan, although she probably won't want to. Before she can choose, however, the moon disappears. No moon, no claiming. Lena has another year to decide what to do. I'll probably get around to reading the rest of the series, but I'm not clamoring for it.
"Blackberry Winter" by Sarah Jio was pretty good, if a bit unrealistic. Claire is still mourning the loss of her newborn the previous year, and her marriage to wealthy newspaper magnate Ethan is deteriorating. Claire turns to her journalism to help heal the pain, and decides to write a story about a young boy named Daniel Ray who disappeared from Seattle 80 years earlier during a freak spring snowstorm. Claire's story is interwoven with Vera Ray's, young Daniel's distraught mother. It was sad, and totally improvable, but it had a nice, sweet ending.
"The Searchers" by Glenn Frankel was really great, I was impressed by how much I enjoyed it. Frankel starts out by telling the story of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped by Comanches when she was nine years old. Her surviving male relatives search for her, but have to give up after awhile. Twenty-four years later, Texas Rangers "rescued" Cynthia Ann from the band of Comanches she was living with and returned her to her white relatives. Heartbroken over the loss of her family and wanting desperately to go back to her Comanche husband and sons, Cynthia died not long afterwards. Frankel then moves on to tell the story of her surviving son, Quanah Parker, who became a famous Indian chief. After Quanah's death in 1911, Frankel moves to the story of Alan LeMay, a novelist who wrote a book based on Cynthia Ann's experience called "The Searchers". John Ford turned it into a famous Western starring John Wayne. Frankel finishes up the book by talking about Quanah's descendants, who still honor him with a festival every year. It was very nicely done and quite fascinating.
So, a crop of YA fiction and biographies. Yay!
"I Hunt Killers" by Barry Lyga was a recommendation from a coworker. I went after work last Saturday to B&N, bought it, and spent all morning Sunday unable to put it down. It was terrific, and I can't believe it's classified as YA. It was definitely gross and creepy! Jazz's father is a notorious serial killer named Billy Dent. Billy's in prison, and the entire town avoids Jazz, except for his friend Howie and his girlfriend Connie. The small town of Lobo's Nod is once again rocked by a series of murders, and everyone is looking at Jazz. It doesn't take him long to discover that the new killer is copying his dear old dad. It was great: suspenseful and taunt and had a great, satisfying ending.
I'm not a big fan of Valerie Harper or anything, but I wanted to read her memoir "I, Rhoda", mostly to see what she had to say about the whole Hogan's Family debacle. Not much, as it turns out. The rest of her story is interesting, and probably would have been more so if I'd watched the Mary Tyler Moore Show or Rhoda.
"Unsinkable" by Debbie Reynolds was really heartbreaking. This poor lady has been through so much, and yet she keeps on going. Her first husband left her for Elizabeth Taylor, her second husband gambled through his fortune and then hers, leaving her millions in debt she had to work her butt off to pay for, and then her third husband turned out to be a lying cheat would stole even more of her money. After spending nearly 50 years collecting Hollywood memorabilia like Marilyn Monroe's subway dress from "The Seven Year Itch" and trying to find someone to sponsor a museum and failing, Debbie was finally forced to sell most of her treasures off in order to pay her debts. She was incredibly upbeat and optimistic about the whole thing, which is incredible.
I'm ambivalent about "Stranger Here" by Jen Larsen. At over 300 pounds, she decides to have weight loss surgery, hoping it will magically change her destructive eating habits. Of course it doesn't, and she makes herself sick time and time again by eating more than her new smaller stomach can handle, or eating all the wrong things. But she does lose the weight, and realizes that while it's easier to be skinny than to be fat, being skinny doesn't automatically make you happy like she assumed it would.
And the sequel to "I Hunt Killers", "Game" by Barry Lyga was incredible. The NYPD asks Jazz to come lend his unique insight into their manhunt for a killer they've named Hat Dog, because he either carves a hat or a dog into his victims. Billy is still on the loose, so Jazz is keeping an eye out for him as well. It turns out there are actually two killers, Hat and Dog, playing a sick, twisted game of Monopoly orchestrated by none other than Billy Dent himself, who is rolling the dice and calling the shots. The ending is a huge cliffhanger, so I hope to god Barry Lyga is busy putting the finishing touches on the next book and getting ready to publish it. Like, yesterday. Please hurry! :)
"I am Mary Tudor" by Hilda Lewis was a good fictional account of Mary up until she became Queen. The heartbreak of her early years, how her evil father tossed her sainted mother aside, how she struggled just to survive and maintain her dignity. Poor Mary. I always feel so sorry for her, even if she handled the whole Protestant thing pretty badly. She just wanted to be loved and wanted by her father, wanted a husband and kids. I can totally relate.
"Kind One" by Laird Hunt was a nominee for this year's PEN/Faulkner award. It was pretty good, about a young girl, Ginny, who is tricked into marrying Linus Lancaster with promises of a mansion in paradise. Turns out he just has a cabin and a farm and a bunch of slaves he mistreats and soon Ginny is mistreating them as well. When Cleome and Zinnia reach the end of their rope and kill Linus one day and take Ginny hostage, no one is really surprised. Or blames them. It was very sad.
"How Literature Saved My Life" by David Shields was rambling and a bit hard to read. It was one of those books that makes me feel as if I'm not quite smart enough to understand it (and I'm probably not). Not a big fan of feeling like I'm being left out of an inside joke.
"Pitch Perfect" by Mickey Rapkin was really fun. My sister and I watched the movie based off the book a few weeks ago, and when I found out there was a book of course I had to read it! I really enjoyed it. Who knew collegiate a Capella was so competitive and cutthroat? Wow, these kids take this *seriously*. Rapkin's book was witty and read like a novel.
Benjamin Alire Saenz won the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction this year with his collection of haunting short stories: "Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club". Saenz uses this fictional bar in Juarez, Mexico as a catalyst for his stories about life, love, loss, and hope. I am normally not a big short story fan but these were exceptionally good.
"Blood Sisters" by Sarah Gristwood was full of interesting if not terribly new information for me about the women behind the Cousin's War, or the War of the Roses. Elizabeth Woodville, her daughter, Elizabeth of York, Margaret of Anjou, Margaret of Burgandy, Margaret Beaufort, Anne Neville: Gristwood showed how they worked behind the scenes of history to influence the men in their lives.
So I finally got around to reading Paul Murray Kendall's biography "Richard the Third". I've had it on my to read list for a long time. It was pretty hard slogging through it. It's very academic and dry, but it really was very good and I'm glad I stuck with it. He points out all the myths that came about during the Tudor reign and documents all the good that Richard did in his short time on the throne, coupled with what his contemporaries said about him at the time.